The great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) grows freely in England

on dry banks and waste places, but somewhat sparingly in Scotland.

It belongs to the scrofula-curing order of plants, having a thick

stalk, from eighteen inches to four feet high, with large woolly

mucilaginous leaves, and with a long flower-spike bearing plain

yellow flowers, which are nearly sessile on the stem. The name

Molayne is derived from the Latin,
ollis, soft.

In most parts of Ireland, besides growing wild, it is carefully

cultivated in gardens, because of a steady demand for the plant by

sufferers from pulmonary consumption. Constantly in Irish

newspapers there are advertisements offering it for sale, and it can

be had from all the leading local druggists. The leaves are best when

gathered in the late summer, just before the plant flowers. The old

Irish method of administering Mullein is to put an ounce of the

dried leaves, or a corresponding quantity of the fresh ones, in a pint

of milk, which is boiled for ten minutes, and then strained. This is

afterwards given warm to the patient twice a day, with or without

sugar. The taste of the decoction is bland, mucilaginous, and

cordial. Dr. Quinlan, of Dublin, treated many cases of tubercular

lung disease, even when some were far advanced in pulmonary

consumption, with the Mullein, [360] and with signal success as

regards palliating the cough, staying the expectoration, and

increasing the weight.

Mullein leaves have a weak, sleepy sort of smell, and rather a bitter

taste. In Queen Elizabeth's time they were carried about the person

to prevent the falling sickness; and distilled water from the flowers

was said to be curative of gout.

The leaves and flowers contain mucilage, with a yellowish volatile

oil, a fatty substance, and sugar, together with some colouring

matter. Fish will become stupefied by eating the seeds. Gerard says

Figs do not putrifie at all that are wrapped in the leaves of Mullein.

If worn under the feet day and night in the manner of a sock they

bring down in young maidens their desired sicknesse.

The plant bears also the name of Hedge Taper, and used to be called

Torch, because the stalks were dipped in suet, and burnt for giving

light at funerals and other gatherings. It is a plant, says the

Grete Herball, whereof is made a manner of lynke if it be tallowed.

According to Dodoeus the Mullein was called Candela. Folia

siquidem habet mollia hirsuta ad lucernarum funiculos apta. It

was named of the Latines, Candela Regia and Candelaria. The

modern Romans style it the Plant of the Lord, Other popular

English names of the plant are Adam's flannel, Blanket,

Shepherd's club, Aaron's rod, Cuddie's lungs; and in

Anglo-Saxon, Feldwode. Gower says of Medea:--

Tho' toke she feldwode, and verveine,

Of herbes ben nought better tweine.

The name Verbascum is an altered form of the Latin barbascum,

from barba, a beard, in allusion to the dense woolly

hairs on both sides of the leaves; and the [361] appellation,

Mullein, is got from the French molene, signifying the scab in

cattle, and for curing which disease the plant is famous. It has also

been termed Cow's Lung Wort, Hare's Beard, Jupiter's Staff, Ladies'

Foxglove, and Velvet Dock from its large soft leaves. The Mullein

bears the title Bullock's lung wort, because of its supposed

curative powers in lung diseases of this animal, on the doctrine of

signatures, because its leaf resembles a dewlap; and the term

Malandre was formerly applied to the lung maladies of cattle.

Also the Malanders meant leprosy, whence it came about that the

epithet Malandrin was attached to a brigand, who, like the leper,

was driven from society and forced to lead a lawless life.

An infusion of the flowers was used by the Roman ladies to tinge

their tresses of the golden colour once so much admired in Italy; and

now in Germany, a hair wash made from the Mullein is valued as

highly restorative. A decoction of the root is good for cramps and

against the megrims of bilious subjects, which especially beset them

in the dark winter months. The dried leaves of the Mullein plant, if

smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe, will completely control the

hacking cough of consumption; and they can be employed with

equal benefit, when made into cigarettes, for asthma, and for

spasmodic coughs in general.

By our leading English druggists are now dispensed a succus

verbasci (Mullein juice), of which the dose is from half to one

teaspoonful; a tincture of Verbascum (Mullein), the dose of

which is from half-a-teaspoonful to two teaspoonfuls; and an

infusion of Mullein, in doses of from one to four tablespoonfuls.

Also a tincture (H.) is made from the fresh herb with spirit of wine,

which has been proved beneficial for migraine (sick head-ache) of

long [362] standing, with oppression of the ears. From eight to ten

drops of this tincture are to be given as a dose, with cold water, and

repeated pretty frequently whilst needed.

Mullein oil is a most valuable destroyer of disease germs. If fresh

flowers of the plant be steeped for twenty-one days in olive oil

whilst exposed to the sunlight, this makes an admirable bactericide;

also by simply instilling a few drops two or three times a day into

the ear, all pain therein, or discharges therefrom, and consequent

deafness, will be effectually cured, as well as any itching eczema of

the external ear and its canal. A conserve of the flowers is employed

on the Continent against ringworm. Some of the most brilliant

results have been obtained in suppurative inflammation of the inner

ear by a single application of Mullein oil. In acute or chronic cases

of this otorrhoea, two or three drops of the oil should be made fall

into the ear twice or thrice in the day. And the same oil is an

admirable remedy for children who wet the bed at night. Five

drops should be put into a small tumblerful of cold water; and a

teaspoonful of the mixture, first stirred, should be taken four times

in the day.

Flowers of Mullein in olive oil, when kept near the fire for several

days in a corked bottle, form a remedy popular in Germany for

frost-bites, bruises, and piles. Also a poultice made with the leaves

is a good application to these last named troublesome evils. For the

cure of piles, sit for five minutes on a chamber vessel containing

live coals, with crisp dry Mullein leaves over them, and some finely

powdered resin.